Regular checkups and early treatment are key
He brings weather, news, and smiles to the more than 3.5 million Americans who wake up with NBC’s TODAY Show every morning. But popular TODAY co-host Al Roker brought a very serious message to his audience earlier this month when he publicly revealed his prostate cancer diagnosis.
Adding to his long history both on- and off-screen to raise prostate-cancer awareness, Roker shared his latest health news with his coast-to-coast audience to further inform viewers about this illness, which is the No. 1 cancer affecting Black men and the No. 2 cancer affecting all American men.
“It’s a good news/bad news kind of thing,” Roker said. “Good news is we caught it early. Not great news that it’s a little aggressive, so I’m going to be taking some time off to take care of this.”
Since his November 6 announcement, Roker has kept audience members updated with the latest on his treatment and promising prognosis while continuing to encourage others—especially Black men—to know the facts about this common but often treatable disease.
PROSTATE CANCER FACTS
According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer can often can be treated successfully, especially if it is detected early. Prostate cancer begins when cells in the prostate gland start to grow out of control; however, while some prostate cancers grow and spread quickly (like the more aggressive type affecting Roker), most grow slowly. Most prostate cancers are found early through screening, and early forms of this cancer usually cause no symptoms. However, more advanced prostate cancers can sometimes cause symptoms such as:
- Problems urinating, including a slow or weak urinary stream or the need to urinate more often, especially at night.
- Blood in the urine or semen.
- Trouble getting an erection (erectile dysfunction).
- Pain in the hips, back (spine), chest (ribs), or other areas from cancer that has spread to bones
- Weakness or numbness in the legs or feet, or even loss of bladder or bowel control from cancer pressing on the spinal cord.
Most of these problems are more likely to be caused by something other than prostate cancer. For example, trouble urinating is much more often caused by benign prostatic hyperplasia, a non-cancerous growth of the prostate. Still, it’s important to tell your health care provider if you have any of these symptoms so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed, and so more tests can be done to check for prostate cancer, if necessary.
HELP IS AVAILABLE
Roker’s cancer was found during a regular checkup using a blood test that measures elevated blood levels of prostate-specific antigen, a protein produced by the prostate gland. The test was subsequently confirmed by an MRI and a biopsy. Following surgery and treatment, he returned to work a few weeks later and continues to encourage men to go to regular medical checkups so, if prostate cancer is present, it can be detected and treated as early as possible.
The Department of Consumer Affairs licenses hundreds of thousands of medical professionals statewide who can be consulted on prostate health questions or any other health issues. To verify a professional’s license, visit https://search.dca.ca.gov.
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